Often defined as an efficient, isolated duplicate of a real computer, a virtual machine is actually software that emulates a physical computer. Both businesses and individuals might turn to virtual machines as an effective way to reduce IT expenses while still being able to get the job done.
But how do virtual machines actually work?
The Basics of Virtual Machines
As you may already know, the operating system installed on a Mac or on any other computer is not able to run more than one operating system simultaneously. To do that, there is a need for another layer in the setup, a virtual machine monitor (often referred to as hypervisor).
A virtual machine monitor (VMM) is a third-party application that enables the required platform to operate an emulation of another operating system on the same hardware. Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox all provide software that is installed on the Mac, after which it is possible to install and run a secondary operating system.
The virtual machine monitor software is essential to this process because after installation on macOS – the host platform – it provides an abstraction of a complete computer system for higher-level software. Only after the abstraction has been made is it possible to install the guest platform and any associated apps. The reason for this is simple: upon installation on a host machine, a VMM enables the creation of individual virtual machines each with a separate operating system (OSs) and applications. The VMM software manages the backend of the running these virtual machines, allocating processor, memory, storage, and other hardware resources to the processing of this VM’s functions.
How to Set up a Virtual Machine
First, choose your virtual machine provider. The three most popular solutions for Mac are Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox, so take a look at our reviews to help you make an informed decision.
After downloading the software provided by the selected virtual machine service provider, create the virtual machine monitor layer by installing it onto your computer. From that point on, installing another OS on a Mac is a simple task; let the virtualization software download the required ISO file (if this feature is available), otherwise ISO files need downloading manually. Then follow the instructions to install the guest operating system.
How to Run Windows on a Mac Using a Virtual Machine?
A major advantage of a virtual machine is its ability to run two (or more) operating systems at the same time. The guest operating system (in this example, Windows) runs in a safe, sandboxed environment.
To use a Windows application, users will first need to launch the virtualization software, let's say Parallels Desktop. Once the software is active, you can either set it up to launch Windows automatically when the virtual machine launches or launch the operating system manually whenever you actually need it – which is much more energy efficient.
Best Virtual Machine Software of 2023
- How Does a Virtual Machine Work?
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- Is It Safe to Run Windows on a Mac?
- What Is Virtual Machine Software?
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